Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Phar Lap

Yesterday I finally saw something I've been looking for since my first trip here in 1991--the bones of Phar Lap. Who is Phar Lap? you ask.
Phar Lap is one of the greatest raceshorses ever to run in any generation.

Living with Ken, I had learned about the legend of Phar Lap, and there is a movie about him, way pre-Seabiscuit.

Phar Lap was born in New Zealand, and died in the US. He was poisoned at the racetrack of Tanfaran--in San Bruno, just south of San Francisco, where a shopping center now stands. Years ago, Ken and I went to go to the Sears there. The address was just San Bruno, so I didn't think anything of it, until I saw the sign. "Oh no, Ken, we can't go there---they killed Phar Lap!" Yes, we did end up going, but I say a little prayer any time I'm there.

The thing about Phar Lap is that he was a ray of hope for New Zealanders & Australians during the depression. He was a great horse, and when they did the autopsy, they found he had the biggest heart they had ever seen in a horse. He's claimed by both Australians, where he did most of his racing, and New Zealanders, where he was born. His bones are in the Te Pape museum in Wellington, his hide in Melbourne, and his heart in Canbarra.

It's just one of those great stories I love.....

UPDATE: For a more recent Phar Lap post, click here

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Here comes the sun.....

If I had to choose a day for the sun to show itself, Thursday was the day I would have chosen, and for once, the karma was with me. The plan for the day was to take a coast walk, and I couldn't have asked for better weather. The sun was out, the waves were high, and the temperature was a delightful 70 or so degrees--20 centigrade to the folks here and the rest of the world (but more on that in another post).

After doing some studying in the morning, I headed over to Bondi Beach. I walked about the town abit--nothing really much--and had some lunch. Then I set off. The walk is just a path alonge the cliffs boardering the Pacific Ocean. When I'm at Ocean Beach in San Francisco, I often think about the world on the other side. There I was, on that other side, looking back. The water was a beautiful blue/green hue--I hope the pictures due it justice (I'll get them posted soon).

At one of the beaches along the way, there was a photo shoot of some sort going on. It was pretty low key, the subjects were two Pacific Island women in front of a surfboard with the ocean waves as the backdrop. The story in my mind was that they were a singing due posing for their new album cover. Wouldn't it be a trip if one day I actually saw it in a store?

The plan was to meet up with Joan & Mark Reiss's friends Ralph and Janette at the halfway point, about an hour or so away, and walk the rest of the trail. I got Bronte Beach, the designated spot, a bit early, so I went a little further to investigate the cemetary I had seen in the distance. Anyone who's read my earlier entries will not be surprised at this. (For those who haven't, see "Lifecycles, Part 1).

I like to wander around cemetaries--it's a very special kind of quiet. And, like my penchant for reading obituaries, I feel it's a way to honor people's lives. And another place I get to wonder about their stories. What struck me in this cemetary was the number of couples where the men died in their 30's and 40's, and the women lived into their 80's and 90's. Although these didn't seem such early graves--there weren't many earlier than the 1920's--it's still somewhat early in Australian settlement, I think. And with a lot of the early settlers being Irish Catholics, I would imagine that the women would have had a good number of children early in their lives, with a good amount dying in childbirth. While that may be the case, the graves I saw seemed to tell a different story. I guess it's time to read Robert Hughs' "The Fatal Shore" and get educated on my Australian history.

I met Ralph at Cafe Q at Bronte Beach. He has knee issues, and Janette got caught up in work, so instead of walking the rest of the way, he drove me to a couple of more coastal beaches. All of these beaches have protected sea water pools for swimming--a nice feature, along with showers to rinse off. They also have little kiosks of tables and chairs for picnicing out of the sun. And, of course, more public toilets available than we seem to be able to manage in the States.

Ralph dropped me off at the train station, and I got to take Sydney's version of BART for the first time. Their ticket system is similar, although the trains seem bigger--they're the type with different levels, like some of the old LIRR trains, or what I've seen of some CalTrans trains. I transfered to a bus, and was back in Glebe in plenty of time to prep for Purim....a tale to be told in my next entry.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

It's Raining, It's Pouring.......

What can I vacation weather karma has kicked in once again. It's not just raining--a just put up the umbrella and go with it rain. It's stormy, with winds that constantly try to grab the umbrella from your hands. It's drenching rain that makes getting around difficult--you get soaked just waiting for the bus.

I did manage to get out a bit today. Brent drove me over to Newtown, a place I remember as having cool ethnic, Indonesian goods kind of shops. I was hoping to get some clothes that don't make it to the states, plus find the makings of a Queen Esther type costume for Purim--I've brought my sequined tiara with me. But the shops I remember have been, for the most part, replaced with trendy clothes stores with goods out of my age range. I did manage to find a skirt I liked, although I will not be wearing it low on my belly as I believe a teen would. But it works for me.

If the weather clears tomorrow, Joan & Mark Reiss's friend Ralph is taking me on one of his famous walks, possibly around the harbor beaches. If the rain continues, I think I'll hit the museums or galleries.

Friday I'll hang out with Brent and Sharon. Friday through Monday is a holiday weekend here--Easter holiday. It comes as a bit of a shock to me--I don't know if it's because I'm American or Jewish. Is Good Friday a holiday in the US? Maybe just a bank holiday? And we certainly don't do Easter Monday. All the British Commonwealth countries deal with those Christian holidays--for instance, they also do Boxing Day, the day after Christmas. I would guess that those traditions were not lost at Independence, but in the time of separation that followed. As I study Western Civilization, I'm realizing how much Christianity is tied up with European history. Again, as an American and a Jew, those traditions and their origins tend to be out of my radar.

Well, however the holiday has happened, let's hope that the weather clears up and we can all enjoy it.........

Monday, March 21, 2005

View of the Bay

Titahi Bay
Originally uploaded by M Divah.
Before I move on to any Sydney posts, here is a photo of Titahi Bay, a block from Ken's parents' house. Ken grew up in this community, although on the side away from the beach. His parents moved to the house on the beach side about 12 years ago.

When it's clear, you can see the South Island. As you may have read in the previous post, there's been lots of fog, so I haven't been able to show that...hopefully when I'm back.....

Buses & Trains & Planes…Oh My…

Finally made it to a place where I can post this. It was written on Friday(it's now Tuesday)


It was a major travel day using all sorts of transportation spanning from local to international. We did make it to Wellington, finally, safe and sound, although it’s never without some sort of new adventure. (I will warn you this is a long post—I don’t expect future entries to be such a length.)

It started out easy enough. Ken & I left the house, walked a few blocks to Chenery & 30th, and boarded the 26 bus to the Glen Park BART(Bay Area Rabid Transit—somewhat like the Long Island Railroad, for the New York readers) station. This trip has a couple of firsts for us—first time we can use the newly finished BART to SFO and the first time we can fly directly from SFO to Auckland. We didn’t even need to use the new inter-terminal tram, since the SFO BART stop is right at the international terminal.

Check in was also a breeze. The Air New Zealand agent even directed me to the United counter so I could get my frequent flyer number, which I had forgotten to enter when I bought the tickets. This trip alone should reap some benefits—not just with the San Francisco to New Zealand legs, but I’m also traveling Air New Zealand round trip from Wellington to Sydney, so there will be lots and lots of miles.

Even security presented no problems. I know there were those of you who had some doubts, but my crochet hooks and blunt edged scissors made it through without raising any flags with the scanners.

We had left plenty of time for any problems which, of course, didn’t arise, so now we had time to kill at the terminal. It was of eerie in a science-fiction-movie-what’s-wrong-with-this-picture kind of way. The lighting was soft, the sounds muffled, and there weren’t a lot of people—none of the hustle and bustle that I expect at an airport. Maybe it’s because the gates are spaced far enough apart that you don’t have that many people milling about; maybe it’s that we left on a Wednesday and the midweek traffic isn’t heavy; and maybe it’s still a lull in travel due to 9/11. Whatever, it felt a bit odd. So we sat and read and waited.

The plane ride was uneventful—just what you want in a long trip. The food was okay—I ordered vegetarian/non-dairy, which definitely gives you a better shot. Ken got a good amount of sleep hours in, I did not. It just wasn’t happening for me. So I sat and read and crocheted and meditated a bit. I wasn’t into getting involved with any of the movies—The Incredibles, the second Bridget Jones movie, and something staring Hillary Duff. It’s sometimes more interesting to just drift in and out of the pictures, making up my own version of the dialogue.

Ken and I remarked that this was the first Southern Hemisphere trip we’d taken that didn’t involve any trauma—I didn’t get sick, he wasn’t sick, we didn’t miss any connections. We even had our next leg, Auckland to Wellington, already booked. But little did we know what lay ahead for us.

Immigration and customs—no problem. No one even questioned my red water bottle filled with vodka (for those who wonder about that, well, you’ll have to follow my Sydney adventures). We got the shuttle bus to the domestic terminal, and then the trouble began. It was 6 o’clock in the morning, and the place was filled with travelers—business people, families on holiday. We got on the check-in line without worry, we had plenty of time—our plane to Wellington wasn’t scheduled to leave until 8:30a.m. Just when we got to the front of the line, we heard an announcement about planes to Wellington being suspended. They wouldn’t even let us check in, “just wait near check-in until further notice” we were told. I had a bit of an attitude—“you mean we have to wait just to stand on this long line again?” Well, yes, that’s what they were saying.

The problem was fog in Wellington. The runway at the Wellington airport is short and the pilots need to have visible contact no less than 500 meters. The fog was thick in Wellington, with visibility down to 300 meters. A women sitting with us said this happened a couple of months ago, and lasted for 3 days. This fact did not do much to improve my mood. As more people arrived in the terminal, the chaos increased. We were told to get on line—or should I say, queue up—then stand down. The natives were definitely restless. Meetings were being missed; families were missing connections for weddings. Then we hear, “Air New Zealand Flight 415 to Wellington now boarding.” Huh? We hadn’t even checked in yet, and there was that really long line to go through. But a group of us jumped to the front—with the understanding of those behind us—got checked in and raced to through security to the gate. We got on the plane, and then were informed by the pilot that we were going to start out towards Wellington, but if the fog hadn’t cleared we would land in Palmerston North, then bused to Wellington. And is what indeed happened, adding another 3 hours to our trip.

We are now ensconced at Ken’s parents’ house, 2 Whanake Street, Titahi Bay. We’re headed into fall, not spring, with the clocks turning back, not forward. And there are other stories to tell, so stay tuned.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Finding my wayonline

I've finally found out where to get online in Porirua, the town closest to where Ken's parent's live at Titahi Bay. I've written a long tome about the trip into New Zealand, but I'm at the library, and can't attach my thumb drive here, so that entry will have to wait until I get to Sydney this evening.

It's amazing to me how quickly I've adapted to being here. I'm not driving--that's a bit too advanced for me--but I do manage to look the correct way when crossing the street. I've been here enough to be familiar with the surroundings, which is comforting. The weather's been good--warm and sunny.

I'll write later this week about what's happening with Ken's mom, which is the reason we are here. She's okay at the moment, but there have been two ambulance trips to the hospital since we've been here due to epileptic attacks she's had. One thing to note--it's nice to not have cost factor into the decision of whether to call the ambulance or not. Unlike in the States, it's free.

More from Sydney............

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Journey Begins

Tomorrow at this time, I will be somewhere over the Pacific Ocean on my way to New Zealand. Yes, it's a long flight--it's good that we're doing it overnight AND I found some Atavan--hopefully, I'll get some sleep.

I'll be sharing my adventures with you in this blog. After all, that was the reason for starting this in the first place. I'm hoping to get some photos in here as well, if I get the technology working. It will be a triumph if all goes well, and we get to transmit from Ken's laptop while sitting in a "hotspot" cafe in Wellington.

I don't know and can't really imagine how it will be to deal with Ken's mom and her wondering presence. It will be a lesson in patience.

Sydney should be a blast. It's one of my favorite cities, and I'm looking forward to some exploration. And as much as I'll miss Purim at Beth Sholom, it will be fun to participate "Down Under." I've decided to put a costume together when I get there, although I did bring my sequin tiara to keep up my own personal Purim tradition.

So, welcome along for the ride.......

Friday, March 04, 2005

Lifecycles, Part 2

On Sundays, we get the New York Times. I'm coming up on my 19th anniversary in San Francisco, but it's one of those New York habits I cannot and will not break. What has changed in the years I've been getting the NYTimes is what I read and in what order.

I used to hit the magazine section first, then the book review, the Arts & Leisure, and then sports, which in the national version used to have the lifestyle columns in the same section. These days, I hit the Styles section first. Why? My Sunday isn't really complete until I read the wedding announcements.

Up until a few years ago, we only got a profile of one wedding. Now, in additon to the quarter page profile, we get 2-4 pages of announcements, depending on the season. Ocassionally there's a notice of someone famous, or a child of someone famous, but for the most part it's just regular people. I don't know them. Again, as in my last post, we ask the question--why do I read them?

I think it's like reading a series of short stories every week. Sometimes there are lots of details--where they met,who set them up, how they felt about each other at first. In some stories we even get a bit of dialogue. Most of them have photos--some very staged, some a bit more casual. I try to get a feel for the couple from their smiles and their body language. And then there's the info on their parents--together, divorced, occupations. All feed into the storylines.

Sometimes there is very little data given, but enough to fill in the blanks. Did the family go into crisis when an O'Malley married a Goldberg, or a Chin married Thurston III?

I could go on and on. Like reading the obituaries, I wonder about the voyeur quality in me. But then, I also think, as with the obituaries, it's another way to honor life--everyone's life. I get to share in these couples celebration. I get to be someone else who wishes them good luck and hopes for the best.......